Good PR photography -what makes a picture tell a thousand words…
Photocalls are a daily feature of our life as PR professionals and as a communications tool they are invaluable. Just as a press release communicates a message, a picture can tell ‘a thousand words’.
On any given day picture editors receive hundreds of images from event launches, openings, media briefings to mention a few. So what is the secret? What makes picture editors look at a particular image and choose it out of the hundreds of images they receive in any given day? At MKC we work with a number of excellent photographers including Fennell Photography, Marc O’Sullivan, John Ohle and Conor Healy.
To give you a real insight into the world of PR photography we put a few questions to photographer Conor Healy.
What constitutes a good PR photo ?
Conor – A good PR photo is the one that lands in the papers, as this is the ultimate aim . It must also be able to stop the reader and make them interested in what is essentially a soft sell approach.
The image sells the message without it being noticed by the reader and the best way to do that is to have an image that is strong visually and compositionally.
In my experience, you cannot force a good PR image – ’something’ has to happen that makes the image quirky and this ’something’ is not usually known prior to the shoot. For that ’something’ to happen, you need good people, great props and a photographer who knows how to capture the decisive moment.
How many people is too many for a photo?
Conor – It depends on the photo and it depends on the caption. A corporate image should have no more than 3 – 4 people in it. More than that and the image becomes a ‘group’ photo for the office and not it’s primary purpose, which is to get into the papers.
One representative from each organisation involved is sufficient from a press point of view. Images like these have to be captioned – the person, their role, etc. Most captions should only be two or three lines long.
However, If the caption can read “students from DCU met up with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden”, then you can have as many students in the photo as you can fit!
What locations work / don’t work for photocalls?
Conor – Rather than think of a location, think of the background and think shade!
St. Stephen’s Green has a lovely lake, but it is rare you see it in a photocall image and the reason is because PR photographers are interested only in what is in the background of the image and that tends to be at shoulder height.
Most backgrounds are nondescript; there are no buses, cars, exit signs, constructions notices etc., because you don’t want anything to distract the eye from the centerpiece and the message.
What works best in the background is strong colours. I mention shade because most PR photographers hate the sun! Too much strong sunlight creates contrast in a PR photograph and while there are exceptions to this, most photographers like to have the comfort of a nearby tree or hedge that can allow soft light on their subjects (and let the strong light stay in the background).
What kind of props do you feel work best in photos?
Conor – Last week we photographed a “Star Wars storm trooper”, a few weeks before it was a massive Red Chair. The best props are unusual, relate to the photocall, look real and are not cheesy!
Pop – up stands are out! They are the prop of last resort. This country is filled with incredibly talented and creative individuals and groups, from Macnas to fire eaters to ballet dancers, and all can be used to create a colorful, visually strong image that gets your message across. So use them.
Is one day more popular than others for photocalls?
Conor – Tuesdays and Thursdays have always been the most popular days but agencies are looking more at shooting on a Sunday for Monday. Friday and Saturday are seen as the worst days for a photocall but it might be better to think of your question in terms of months rather than days. October is the busiest month of the year. I can cover four times as many photocalls then compared with, say, January or even December! I even get calls in January from Social Magazines looking for images that don’t have Christmas baubles in them!
So the next time a picture in a newspaper or magazine catches your eye, think of the creativity and the propping that went into making it hit its target!
Conor Healy is a professional PR photographer who works with some of the biggest PR agencies in Dublin as well as some of the smallest. The results, however, are always first class! For more information, check out www.chphotography.ie or email Conor@chphotography.ie to find out how he can help you achieve better results.